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whilst soloing.. (in the series of stupid questions i've been asking recently)

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by x15, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. x15


    Feb 4, 2003
    New Delhi, India
    while soloing, how exactly do you know where you are in the song? i learnt the melodies of tracks and then played around them but i tend to get lost.. even in blues tracks, like c-jam or blue monk.. i often find that im playing a solo that isn't all that bad, but i either end up wrapping it up too quickly or too late.. i know its probably a practice thing, but words of wisdom would be appreciated..
  2. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Listen to classic recordings of the songs you are working on ad nauseum. In order to solo on them you have to be so familiar with the tune's structure that you no longer have to think about it. As you get more experienced at it you'll notice common threads between tunes but for now you have to do the grunt work which is understanding the basic forms of jazz tunes.
  3. Will Yager

    Will Yager Supporting Member

    May 7, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    Definitely. Ideally, you want to be hearing and not thinking. I can say from personal experience that it gets easier the longer you play. I used to struggle with this too.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    If it's typical Jazz tune - then I think you have to start to "feel" the structure and to think in say 8-bar sections - if that's how the song is set out.

    I think as "fingers" says - you start to recognise these structures and they go past in your head - even when the music is not there!! ;)

    So often, after playing - I will keep hearing the sound of the chord sequence going round in my head!!
  5. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    you can't really do this until you've completely internalized the song. Generally the more songs you learn and memorize the more these internal roadmaps will guide you semi-consciously and will be effective in helping you with other songs with similar avenues. I know it sounds a little suspicious, but it's really no different than any other action you commit to memory that you need to do while performing another action. It takes a while for you to feel confident of your control of the process. Generally a sense of 4 and 8 measures... where the bridge normally occurs, the feeling of the 12 bar blues. There are these little sign posts that become automatic. You don't have them yet. Give it a sec

    One of the reasons for getting lost while soloing generally is not playing something simple and relevant enough to the place you're playing. In other words you're confusing yourself. The thing you're playing is either a. not relevant or b. too complex for you at the moment for you to maintain hearing the chord movement in your peripheral consciousness.
  6. conte2music

    conte2music Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2005
    Dobbs Ferry, NY
    Consider checking out some recordings with vocalists...If you know the lyrics in addition to the melody, you'll find it much easier to keep your place.

    Best of luck, and don't get down. It'll all start to click soon... especially if you keep listening (while playing and also to those recordings).
  7. Start by counting 1, 2, 3, 4... Practice slowly with a metronome playing the thirds and sevenths of tunes till you can hear the harmony assuming you can already sing and play the melody. That way the tune lives inside you with a time line that makes sense. Then when you practice try practicing just really outlining the harmony with a lot of resolution. If you don't know where you are in the form how can you honestly feel good about your soloing though?
  8. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Look. Think of your favorite pop tune. Bet you know the form. You need to have the same familiarity with the jazz tunes you are playing. Simple as that. You can count and anticipate chord movement etc all you want but the bottom line is knowing the tune. To me the most interesting and fun way of doing that is listening to great recordings of the tunes you are trying to play. After that the chords are the easy part.
  9. x15


    Feb 4, 2003
    New Delhi, India
    thank you for all for the advice.. i really appreciate it.. i realise that patience is definitely a virtue here.. so i'm going to keep at it.. and in case any of you happen
    to be in japan, do get in touch : )
  10. anonymous02282011

    anonymous02282011 Guest

    Jun 27, 2007
    Time and practice will get you there.

    It might help to think of it in terms of PHRASING. For a blues, consider three 4 bar phrases.

    The classic example is to play a phrase over bars 1-4. Then play a response to that phrase -- or perhaps even the same one, slightly altered --- in bars 5 -8. Play a third phrase to resolve the blues chorus in the last four bars. This will bring you to the top of the next chorus. Once you've mastered that, you can try phrasing 8 bars + 4 bars or playing 12 bar phrases, until it becomes a bit more natural and you can find yourself in the form structure. best luck.
  11. lofreek


    Jul 19, 2004
    St. Louis MO
    Having difficulties with the roadmap is just part of the process. With enough exposure (gigs, jams, listening), it should become instinctual. The key is getting away from intellect and getting into imagination. Too much going on in real time to be thinking. Learn to hear the song rolling by in your imagination. The clearer that your imagination allows you to hear it in your head, the better your entire musical world becomes.
  12. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    For me, it is listening, listening, and more listening to the tune. Also, learning the head, and then with this knowledge I can do a type of soloing called embellishing, where I can solo on ideas related to or exactly like the head.

    I know I really know a song when I can wake up first thing in the morning and the run the changes, melody, structure, and some semblance of a solo in my head away from the instrument.

    Takes practice and repetition.
  13. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Yes Yes Yes!!!!!
  14. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    One thing that noone has mentioned yet... as part of learning 2/4/8 bar phrases it also helps a ton to think of phrases in terms of call and response.

    You can start with playing lots of 2 bar phrases. Once you're comfy with that, use a two bar phrase as a call, and play a 2 bar phrase as a response. That way you get a sense of structure in terms of measures and made a longer idea out of short ones. Once you do a 4 bar phrase (2 bar call + 2 bar response), double it so you have an 8 bar phrase (4 bars call + 4 bars response).

    Once you get to 8 bars, you'll find immediately that most tunes are composed of 8 bar parts (as in AABA). In which case, you can find that you can theoretically play a 16 bar phrase call (for the first part of the song - AA) to a 16 bar call (BA)... making 32 bars of a typical jazz standard. Or rather than that, I think of 8 bar phrases and calls done 4 times over for one chorus. IMO, it's easier than most people think.

    EDIT: You can practice short phrases very easily. Say if you're working on 2 bar phrases, play the tune soloing 2 bars at a time, and then resting for 2 bars, and then do it all over again. Every time you solo your 2 bars, the idea must be complete and not bleed into the 3rd bar. This way you build concrete ideas while getting used to having spaces in your soloing. Again, once you get comfy, double the number of bars. Rinse and repeat.

    Combine that with knowing the changes, learning the melodies, and remember particular landmarks in a tune (like what chord does the bridge start with?) and you probably won't ever get lost.

    Internalizing the tune is always best but sometimes you're forced to comp and solo on tunes you've never played much less even heard before depending on the circumstances.
  15. penguinbassist


    Aug 16, 2008
    I try to sort of parallel the actual song melody a bit. This doesn't mean playinbg the melody, more like playing a harmony mixed with it. The important thing is to keep within each bar. Try using simpler rhythms too.
  16. theres no shame in a walking solo... check percy heath
  17. standupright


    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    not knowing the structure of the music is like letting your dog walk himself.
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I would say it's more like seeing that a dog has four legs and wondering why your plan of setting places for dinner on its back just aren't working out....
  19. i think the hard truth about playing the changes is that you can't really memorize them. you just have to hear them, until you can hear the changes go by in real time (like oh, the horn player outlined this, the pianist played this) your kind of treading water. in my feeble attempts to teach, i always run in to this question. and i always anwser, listen to jazz until you can hear the changes in real time, just try and do what you can do until then. the best thing i ever did was get rid of my real book. i had some painful gigs, but each and everyone of them was a learning experience. might have cost me some jobs along the way but i think it was worth it.
  20. emilio g

    emilio g

    Jul 16, 2008
    Jersey City, NJ
    You've got to learn a tune better than your first name to really keep your place and be on top of the changes.

    So for me, that means learning the tune from several different angles.

    A few different ways to stimulate your brain...

    1. Listen to the tune all the time. Sometimes I pick a group of 5 or 6 tunes, burn them on a CD and keep it in my car for a month. Albums too. I listened to The Real McCoy almost exclusively for about 2 months when I first got it...

    2. Learn the melody and changes on piano. If its going slowly, write it out and learn a little each day until you can play it without looking. Makes you a better musician and the ladies love it.

    3. Transcribe as much as you can before you even look at a lead sheet.

    4. Practice to the recording. When I first learned Confirmation, I got it to "stick" by just playing along to the recording everyday for a week or two.

    5. Learn the tune in 12 keys.

    6. Learn the melody and changes on electric bass and upright.

    In general, approaching the music in different ways gets notes in your ears. Once you're hearing the tune in your head, getting lost is MUCH less of a problem.

    As much work as that all might be, it gets easier every time you do it. Learning tunes is a skill that you can get better at.

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